In order to have a team that consistently competes for the Stanley Cup year after year, you have to be able to draft and develop your own players. Although, signing the right free agents could be the difference needed to put a team over the top. There is a bunch of top end unrestricted free agent players that may be available come July 1st, 2016. Those players include Steven Stamkos, Dustin Byfuglien, and David Backes, just to name a few. While teams will be throwing out a ton money at players like them, other lesser known players will still be waiting for a contract.
These lesser known players wont make big headlines when they are signed, but are still capable of making a big impact with their team. They might not lead your team in points or make any impact on the score sheet for that matter, but they could be that missing link your team needs. More importantly, these players should cost a great deal less than the bigger name players.
There is also loads of restricted free agents who are in need of new contracts too. They wont be included on this list, because most of them will eventually be resigned by their current teams. Some of the players on this list may not available depending on if they resign with their current team before July 1st.
Without further ado, here are the top 15 NHL upcoming free agents you didn’t know about and where they might sign.
15. Boyd Gordon, C
Boyd Gordon has never been known for putting up points while in the NHL. His career high was just 29 points which he achieved in the 2006-07 season while with the Washington Capitals. He is, however, one of the most underrated defensive players in the game and he’s consistently put up good faceoff numbers every season. He is also willing to put his body on line by blocking shots on nightly basis. His best asset may be his time spent on the penalty kill. Every team in the NHL needs a player like Gordon who will give it their all every shift in order to win a game.
Prediction: Gordon won’t be making the $3 million a season he is currently making. He will probably sign a deal closer to half that amount per season over a couple years. If he doesn’t re-sign with Arizona, defense first teams like New Jersey would be an ideal landing spot for Gordon.
14. Luke Schenn, D
At just the age of 26, Schenn is the youngest player on this list. He came into league with big expectations and for the most part Schenn has not lived up to them. However, he is still a very capable shut down defenseman. Don’t expect much offense from him, but he can still make a great first pass out of the defensive zone.
Prediction: Schenn still has a lot of hockey left in him. A team looking to add depth and physicality to their blueline should take a long look at Schenn. The Nashville Predators have a bunch of offensive defenseman, so they could use guy like Schenn to balance out their blueline. Schenn will probably get only one year deal worth around $2 million, as he continues to try and prove himself.
13. Vernon Fiddler, C
Vernon Fiddler is a veteran of almost 800 NHL games. His best days are mostly likely behind him. However this doesn’t mean Fiddler can’t play a key defensive role for a team. Fiddler is one of those type of players that you hate playing against but love having on your team.
Projection: Every team would like having a guy like Fiddler, especially come playoff time. Dallas will probably resign him for a couple more years at around $1.5 million per season.
12. Dale Weise, RW
Dale Weise was a rather unknown player before he arrived in Montreal in 2014. Before then he was a fourth liner who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves and pop in the occasional goal. His breakout year was in 2014/15 season when he scored 29 points for Montreal. He got off to a hot start in the 2015/16 season before eventually cooling off, though Weise is still on pace for a career year this season.
Prediction: It’s buyer beware when it comes to Weise. As a team you have to trust that the past of couple season weren’t just flukes. He is still a useful NHL player when he is not scoring, but teams will expect him to score, especially if they are paying him more money than just your typical grinder. Weise will get a nice pay raise from his current salary of just north of $1 million per season. If the Canadiens don’t want to pay his asking price, his hometown team of Winnipeg would be a great fit for him.
11. P.A. Parenteau, RW
It seems like Parenteau was almost written off after his miserable season in Montreal. Toronto decided to take a chance on him and it has so far paid off for them. Parenteau has produced at a scoring rate this season that is more close to his career average. He has shown that still has what it takes to play in the NHL.
Prediction: At the age of 32, Parenteau provides a decent amount of offense with some veteran leadership. He’s played for five different teams throughout his career, so Parenteau probably wants to try and settle down somewhere. If the Leafs offer him a two year contract worth around $2.5 per season, Parenteau should take that offer.
10. Darren Helm, C
Darren Helm has been a career long Detroit Red Wing. He’s known for his blazing speed and being a player who can play on both sides of the ice. Unfortunately, he also been known for the multiple injuries he’s suffered throughout his career. When healthy, Helm is capable of producing around 30 points, not too bad for a defensively responsible player.
Prediction: A team looking for a good bottom six energy player should think about signing Helm. The Maple Leafs would be a good fit considering Helm’s old coach Mike Babcock is now in Toronto. Look for Helm to sign a deal close to his current deal of $2.5 million per season.
9. Kris Russell, D
Kris Russell has been hidden on the Calgary blueline behind Mark Giordano and T.J Brodie, but he shouldn’t be ignored. He’s played the best hockey of his career whle with the Flames and scored a career high 34 points during the 2014/15 season. Another plus is that he also has a bit of grit to his game for a guy who lacks size.
Prediction: Russell should get a slight raise on his current $2.6 million salary. A team like St. Louis or Arizona could use a guy like Russell in their top four.
8. Lee Stempniak, RW
Lee Stempniak has been very versatile player throughout his 11 NHL seasons. He has shown he’s capable of being a top six forward but can still produce as a third line player. The one problem with Stempniak is that he is kind of a streaky scorer. He scores goals in bunches and then disappears for a few games at a time. After signing a one year deal with Devils this past season, Stempniak is in the midst of a career year with 36 points in 50 games.
Projection: There isn’t that many teams who would give Lee Stempniak a top six role at this point in his career. The New Jersey Devils decided to take their chances and so far it has paid off. The Devils should do their best to lock him up as they need offense in a bad way. Stempniak should get a nice pay increase from the $850,000 he is making this year. If the Devils plan on to keep using him in a top six role, then Stempniak would be worthy of at least $3 million dollars a season.
7. Braydon Coburn, D
Braydon Coburn was drafted 8th overall in 2003 by Atlanta. He was drafted so high because it’s not too often you get a guy of Coburn’s size who can skate so well. Coburn is known as a guy who can play big minutes for his team. His offensive production has slid a bit in recent years, but he would still be a valuable addition to any blueline corps. He would be a great second pairing defenseman on most teams.
Prediction: The Los Angeles Kings could use big body on their blue line. It will cost them around $4 million for at least four years to get Coburn signed.
6. Teddy Purcell, RW
Teddy Purcell tends to get lost behind all the young forward talent in Edmonton. However he’s got a great deal of offensive talent himself. His best year came with Tampa Bay in 2011/12 when he scored 65 points. At 30 years old, if put in the right situation, there is no reason why Purcell couldn’t come close those totals again.
Prediction: Boston would be a good fit for Purcell, who could slide into a top six slot on the wing for the Bruins. He’ll cost a team somewhere in the $4.5 million range per season.
5. Brian Campbell, D
It seems just like yesterday that Campbell signed a whopping eight year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, worth over $7 million a season. That contract is finally up at the end of this season. Campbell has been one of the leagues best offensive defenseman throughout his career. However, in recent years, his offensive production has been in a bit of decline as he gets up in age. Campbell is still a very useful player that most teams would love to have.
Prediction: Campbell will get nowhere near the money he is currently making on his new contract. A team will probably still be willing to pay Campbell in $4 million dollar range per season for a few years of his service. Another stint in Buffalo might be a good fit for Campbell and the Sabres alike.
4. Troy Brouwer, RW
Troy Brouwer is a power forward that every team wants. He can score goals, but also cause havoc for opposing teams by using his big body to throw hits. He’s great at getting in the front of the net and it’s hard for opposing players to get him out. At his best, Brouwer can be around a 25 goal, 25 assist player.
Prediction: Teams like the Montreal Canadiens who lack size in their top six could use a guy like Brouwer. It won’t cost a team too much sign him. Somewhere around $3.5 for four years should be enough to lock down Brouwer.
3. Kris Versteeg, RW
Kris Versteeg has played with five different teams since he broke into the league with Chicago in 2007, including a second stint with the Blackhawks. It’s kind of strange that Versteeg can’t seem to stay with one team, considering he’s produced every where he has gone. He has a career average of .59 points per game and has 30 points through 50 games this season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Prediction: If the Hurricanes are smart they will get Versteeg resigned. A four year contract worth $18 million should be enough to lock him up.
2. Frans Nielsen, C
Frans Nielsen has to be one of the most underrated players in the league. Two-way forwards as good as him don’t come around that often. His career season came in 2013/14 when he recorded 58 points, not too bad for a guy who is very responsible in his own end. He also is capable of playing both the power play and the penalty kill. His one major flaw is that he seems too get pushed around the ice a lot due to his thin build.
Prediction: Islanders will want to try and re-sign Nielsen. The Islanders will hope that he’ll take a hometown discount, because on the open market Nielsen could fetch upwards of $5 million a season.
1. Loui Eriksson, RW
Loui Eriksson is known for being the main player Boston received from Dallas in the trade for Tyler Seguin. With the level that Seguin is playing at, it’s easy to see that Dallas won that trade, but that doesn’t mean Eriksson isn’t a great player in his own right. He’s got great offensive skills and he scored a career high 73 points in 2010-11. He’s also great in his own defensive zone. His only real flaw is that he has suffered a couple concussions in recent years.
Prediction: Any team looking to bolster their offense and penalty kill should take a shot at signing Eriksson. The St.Loius Blues and San Jose Sharks could use a guy of Eriksson’s calibre in their top six. Expect Eriksson to get a deal in the $25 million over five years range.
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